By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
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"People will say, 'Why should I care?'" says sociologist William Domhoff, a University of California at Santa Cruz professor and an expert on activism. "They won't think, 'Oh, I gotta help those families in Hunters Point.' They're intent to go about their lives and let others handle the problem."
Proposition A's defeat proved ironic in at least one respect. A progressive coalition did unite behind it, with family-centric nonprofits such as Coleman Advocates joined by PowerPAC and other political groups. Yet the measure lost anyway. "We almost got there," says N'Tanya Lee, Coleman's executive director. "When you come together, good things can happen."
The genesis of Proposition A served as an example of the heavy influence plied by grassroots groups. Media coverage treated the initiative as little more than the latest attempt by Daly to rankle Newsom in their ongoing slap fight. In truth, the supervisor drafted the proposal after advocates had pushed city officials for months to address the homicide spike.
"Daly came late to that party," says political scientist Corey Cook, a professor at San Francisco State University. "There were a lot of families and activists who had wanted action for a long time." Daly may or may not have tallied political points at the mayor's expense in floating the measure, Cook adds, "but it was an organic campaign driven by residents."
Two weeks after Proposition A's demise, the beehive hum of what sounds like a block party echoes through City Hall. In the North Light Court, the chatter of 300 people bounces off the marble walls and floor, accented by the giggles of children playing bingo and board games. Adults and kids alike devour free pizza brought by volunteers for the grand occasion a budget committee hearing.
At one end of the room, a telecast of the meeting plays on a big-screen TV, showing the packed legislative chamber upstairs. Three weeks before the Board of Supervisors approves the city budget, a swarm of nonprofit, union, and cultural groups has gathered to rattle their tin cups before the committee. Almost every person, whether in the meeting room or down here, wears a sticker that declares his or her allegiance: "Fund Immigrant Services," "Save Our Shelters," "Libraries Yes!" Nothing, it seems, draws a crowd like money.
The largest flock, numbering more than 100 strong, represents the Budget 4 Families Coalition. An alliance of groups herded together by Coleman Advocates, its members sport blue-and-white buttons that read "SF Families." They want the board to devote $7.5 million to expand education, housing, job, and child-care services for low-income residents. They also seek an extra $2.5 million for the city's existing anti-violence programs Proposition A Lite, as it were.
Antonio Jones, 17, walks out of the North Light Court and sits down on the rotunda staircase. A volunteer youth advocate with the families coalition, he lives in Hunters Point. Picking at his frayed jean cuffs, he recounts watching a neighbor bleed to death after a drive-by shooting. The grass beneath the man's body turned black from blood.
"Where I live, people feel like there's no hope," Jones says. "So we want to make a statement to let people know we're here and we're going to be here. It's time for the city to stop forgetting us."
The evening caps a campaign of persuasion launched by the families coalition earlier this year. The group hosted public dinners for supervisors at child-care centers in their respective districts, enabling residents to lobby them in a casual setting. The mass turnout tonight brings the informality to City Hall, though anxious parents asked Lee beforehand whether security would toss them for bringing food and games.
"Let them try to kick out kids eating pizza," she replied with a laugh. "It's City Hall the people's place."
The coalition's populist approach hands families greater leverage than what Lee calls the "insidery way" of cozying up to supervisors. "We wanted to show that it's not just a few seasoned activists who care about these issues, but a lot of people," she says. "We need the board, but we also wanted to show that they need us."
The need in the neighborhoods, however, carries the scent of gunfire. Two weeks after the hearing, following a July Fourth party he attended with his family in Hunters Point, a man walking home was fatally shot. His death marked the city's 43rd homicide of the year.
About 100 protesters march toward Downtown Berkeley in the right lane of University Avenue, escorted by a trio of police officers on bicycles. Cars ease past in the left lane as the crowd, in a series of chants, demands Israel withdraw from Gaza: "Free, free Palestine!" "End the occupation now!" "Free, free the refugees!"
Some drivers honk. It's impossible to know whether they're declaring solidarity with the group or annoyance at needing to slow down. Either way, the protesters cheer each time.
Most in the group clutch signs that depict a child's silhouette from the shoulders up; across the bottom of each sign runs the name and age of a different Palestinian youth killed amid the simmering strife in Gaza. Others carry posters that assign blame for the deaths: "End Israeli Apartheid," "Israel & U.S.A. United in Shame."